September 2011

Magnetic Children in Serbia

Two boys mysteriously attract metal


Maybe some of us really are X-Men. Maybe we'll wake up one morning and find ourselves able to shoot lasers out of our eyes or manipulate the way we perceive time. We don't know all the secrets of the human genome yet. We don't know just what all those nucleic acids are capable of awakening in us. We certainly don't know why certain children in Serbia seem to be magnetic.

They're not comic fanboys, either. They've probably never even heard of Professor X or Magneto. Yet these two kids--cousins living in the same town--are capable of attracting metallic objects just like your everyday magnet. 

Irishman's Death Ruled "Spontaneous Human Combustion"

A coroner in Ireland has officially ruled a man's death as being caused by spontaneous human combustion. 76 year-old Galway resident Michael Faherty was found "lying on his back in a small sitting room, with his head closest to an open fireplace" in which a fire was burning. Although the room was undamaged (except for the part directly below and directly above Mr. Faherty's body), "the body had been totally burned."

Vanishing Cruise Ship Passengers

The Daily Mail has a surprisingly thoughtful (for The Daily Mail) article about the surprising number of passengers who have gone missing from cruise ships. 165 people have vanished from cruises in recent years, most of them without leaving a trace behind. Where are they going, and why?

1. Suicide
Suicide always strikes by surprise. No one ever says "I knew he was going to kill himself, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner." The person who commits suicide is, almost by definition, a person who doesn't reach out to others or share their desperation. It's this self-isolation which creates the mindset that causes someone to believe that death is the only plausible solution to their problems.


This morning I happened upon an episode of Syfy Channel's excellent show "Fact or Faked" where they were trying to debunk a series of photographs of ectoplasm. Perhaps the best debunking of ectoplasm is that you really don't hear about it anymore. Surely if ghosts really did exude and use ectoplasm, we would still be taking photographs and samples of the stuff!

Death by Sleeplessness

A rare form of fatal insomnia has no cure


Life tip #271: remember to sleep. Sleep's good for you, kids. If you don't sleep, you're going to die. 

After about a year, that is. That's how long a human can stay awake before permanently shutting down. For what it's worth, most people don't make it that long without conking out for at least a little while. The body needs sleep to complete essential cell processes and the brain needs it to keep you from going completely off the rails. While sleep's purpose and functions are still in many ways mysterious to us, it's proven to be an indispensable biological function. And like food or water, people die without it.

Appalachian "Wifi Shelter"

The BBC News has a great article up about what they term "wifi refugees," people who believe that they suffer from sensitivity to wifi and other electronic signals. Luckily for a select few, there is an area in the Appalachian mountains where wireless is banned.
The town of Green Bank, West Virginia (population 143) lies in the heart of the US Radio Quiet Zone. This is a 13,000 square mile area of the Allegheny Mountains which is kept wireless-free by the US Government, in order to prevent interference with their radio telescopes and other electronic monitoring systems.

"Fairy Tale: A True Story"

A true and "true" story

I remembered watching a movie when I was a little kid when I oddly got onto the topic of fairies the other day. The film I remembered depicted tiny fairies, dressed in pinks and yellows and backlit with shining light. I looked up the movie this morning and found out that it was called Fairy Tale: A True Story and depicts the true story of two British girls who commune with fairies and take their pictures. In real life, these fairy photographs were sent to the press and became an international phenomenon. Also, in real, these photographs were not real, but were spurred by the want for people to believe in magic.

Why Do Ghosts Wear Clothes?

It's one of those oddball, unanswerable questions that pop up from time to time. When people report seeing a full-bodied apparition, it is almost always wearing clothes. (With the notable exception of some ghosts who appear naked.)
One thing I have noticed about ghost reports is that they are often said to have been dressed in gauzy white clothes, like a wedding dress or dressing gown. I wonder if this isn't just the observer's mind trying to make visual sense out of a big swirl of white. They could just be seeing ectoplasm or fog, but their mind sees a woman in a wedding dress.
The fact that ghosts appear in clothing can be explained two ways:
1. The Recording
One theory of ghosts is that they are simply energy recordings, left behind by their owners who lived or worked on the property years ago. This type of haunting is usually not intelligent, and may walk through a wall where there was once a door, or always do the same thing in the same order (e.g. a ghost which is always seen walking up a staircase, never down the stairs or elsewhere in the home).

Why Are Playing Cards Being Left On The Street?

I was recently alerted to the existence of an interesting phenomena happening in our cities: playing cards. Apparently once you start looking, playing cards are scattered throughout our nation's cities, some apparently discarded, but many seemingly placed with great care and deliberation.
What do these playing cards mean? Who left them, and why?
No one knows the answer, and it is likely that there isn't a single answer that explains all of them. Some of the proposed explanations include:
1. Kids
Kids play with cards all the time, and they are often careless. There are a lot of ways a playing card can become detached from its kid owner: it can fly out of the kid's bicycle spokes, get lost while building a house of cards or playing a game of "52 Pick-Up," or just get dropped out of an overstuffed backpack.

The Mysterious Udumbara Flower

Udumbara flowers are part of Buddhist legend, and are said to only flower once every 3,000 years. They are considered an "auspicious sign," particularly in cases where they bloom somewhere significant. Udumbara flowers are most often observed in rather ordinary circumstances, as in 2007 when they were spotted on an oleander bush. But then you have the rare cases, as in 2005 when ten of them were found attached to a gold Bodhisattva statue, when they seem somehow more significant.